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University Life in the UK: 10 Survival Tips

As an international student, not only are you making the big step of leaving home to go to university, but you are also making the even bigger step of moving to another country. First of all, hats off to you – that takes guts!

It can be daunting prospect, as university life differs from country to country. The USA has its frats and sororities, the French its intense work ethic and UK...well this is what you’re about to find out.

In order that you’re prepared for all the UK can throw at you, here are ten survival tips for university life in the UK…

1. Do you need to register?

Some foreign nationals are required to register with the police within seven days of landing in the UK. You’ll need your passport, two passport photos and a specified payment. Get this done first (if you have to) so you’re free to enjoy your new city!

2. Update your wardrobe

It may be September when you arrive but (as the age old cliché goes) British weather can be very unpredictable. Most international societies recommend bringing a coat, sturdy shoes and warm clothing to the UK (or you can buy them pretty cheaply here). If worst comes to the worst you could always burn any shorts, sunglasses or flip-flops you’ve brought with you to stave off the chill!

3. Find a bank

I known, it’s very boring, but very important! It will make paying bills and rent so much easier and quicker. Unfortunately banks tend to only lavish the free gifts and large overdrafts on those with UK passports. But you can get a basic bank account, which will let you get money out and make payments. Check out www.bba.org.uk to compare the different banking options.

4. Join societies

All universities and student unions will have departments dedicated to international students.If you have any problems or questions on anything to do with your course or outside of it, they will be able to provide you with the support you need. Universities also have the cure for a lonely new student – societies! An International Society (which most, if not all universities have)  runs courses and social events where you can meet other international students. But make sure you also sign up for other societies too! This will give you a chance to meet UK students as well and follow some of your interests, such as in sport or music.

5. Improve English language skills

 Academic study in another language can be tough going, but it’s a great way to give your language skills a boost!. Most institutions will offer a range of language courses that will run alongside your studies. Blend your language studies with chat with English speaking students outside of the lecture theatre for extra linguist points!

6. Stay healthy

I know this sounds like something your mum probably said as she bid you goodbye, but it is important. The notorious “Fresher’s Flu” is a familiar enemy to eager new students; it can be a real nuisance when you want to be up and about exploring your new home! Get rest, fluid and vitamins (and avoid those who look suspiciously snotty!). If you do get the flu, and it gets bad, consult your local doctor. All treatment with the National Health Service is FREE if you’re studying in the UK for six months or more!

7. Stay in touch

Get a UK SIM card for your mobile phone - the only way to stay in touch without those exorbitant international charges. You could get “Viber”, a free calls and text service for your phone that allows you to call home for free! And if you’re feeling nostalgic Post Offices are usually open 9am-5.30pm most days, so you could even write a letter (it’s about £1.20-50 to send a letter to Europe).

8. Stay safe

Students in any city across the world can be the targets of thieves, so be aware. Keep doors and windows locked if you go out. If you are out at night, try and stay in groups and keep valuables safe and secure. Flashing your phone and cash around at night is not the best idea. A little bit of vigilance will go a long way!

If you do need the emergency services, the number to call is 999, and it’s free from any phone.  Insurance for your expensive personal belongings (laptop, Ipods etc.) is also a good idea – just in case!

9. Get a job

 It gives you a chance to earn some cash and meet a whole new group of people outside of university. If you’re coming from the European Economic Area, you don’t need special permission to work. If you’re from outside of the EEA but on a full-time course, you can work up to 20 hours a week.

10. See the sights

Last but not least, wherever you’re studying get out and about and see what the UK has to offer – there’s so much to see and do!. Jump of a train or bus and see some of the UK’s great spots.  You could nip down to Brighton and see Britain’s beautiful beaches. Or head up North to Yorkshire or the Lake District and walk in the mountains. Don’t just stay in your university city; make the most of your time in the UK!

By Nathan Ladd, All About Finance Careers